Writing for The Schaefer School


Welcome to The Schaefer School of Engineering and Science Writers Hub!

For our freelance writers, please refer to this page for all practical information, style guide access, best practice information and more.

The Basics

  • Kyla Buckingham will assign stories and manage the content calendar for all assignments. She can be reached at [email protected].

  • Stories are capped at $650 as per our current budget

  • Stories should be no more than 800 words; 600-800 words is our sweet spot

  • If you feel you really need to go beyond this limit in order to tell the story, please check with Kyla first for approval, or to narrow the scope. Never longer than 1200, unless there’s a very good reason for it.

Best Practices

Our super six topline reminders about writing for higher education on the web.

  1. Style. Consult the Stevens Institute of Technology editorial style guide and become familiar with our styles and preferences.

  2. Research pillars. Please familiarize yourself with Stevens' research pillars AND the SES research pillars, as we would like to highlight both of these more. Please reference and link to these when it makes sense in context.

  3. Know our audience. Our targeted audience is largely high school students and their parents. Thus all written content – no matter how technical, detailed or jargon-laden from your source material and interviews – needs to be written at an 8th grade reading level in a easy-reading, conversational style. All jargon should be stripped out.

  4. Write economically. Keep paragraphs short and sentences as simple as possible. This helps our SEO as well.

  5. Don't bury the lede. The first paragraph should nail the most important information.

  6. Think about search. Headlines should not tease, so much as directly state the premise or purpose of the article. They should be short and use the most key words that we would want to end up in search engine results (SEO).

About Photos

Photo sourcing and captions: When working with your subject(s), please remember to always arrange for the highest-quality photos as possible to accompany the story, including portraits, action shots, lab shots and so forth.

  • NO images with graphs, charts and characters should be used, as they are not ADA-compliant. We cannot create alt-text for these images, which belong more in scientific publications and not in feature stories.

  • Please remember to always write captions.

  • The image cannot be embedded in another kind of document: Please ensure that we receive the images as their own files, preferably in .png or .jpg formats.

  • No graphic images. The photo/image should make the reader match it to the story.

  • Please include the images in the same email as the draft you send to Kyla, so she can receive everything in one batch.

Here is some example text used when asking interview subjects for images:

Please share a portrait of yourself, as well as photos or images that illustrate your work to accompany the article. We are especially interested in action shots. Please note that, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the image cannot contain any text, characters, graphs, and so forth. We are looking for a compelling image that will catch a reader's eye and make them feel good.

Grammar and Details

Some quick grammar and style bits:

  • Acronyms: We will no longer use acronyms for department names, but instead write them out (yes, that even means the Department of Civil, Ocean and Environmental Engineering). We can also write "the department" or "The Schaefer School" after first mention of the full department name, instead of the acronym or use your judgement to repeat department names at different points. We want to make our articles as readable as possible.

  • No Oxford/serial commas

  • Pronouns: As a standard interview question, please always ask interviewees for their preferred pronouns

  • Student attributions: Always include the degree, major, and graduation year (including anticipated) at first mention of the student’s name. If you can’t reach the student, try them on LinkedIn or contact their department.

Titles, headers and subheaders

The title and subhead should not be repetitive, but should complement each other. 

  • Keep titles as short as possible, with the first letter of each word capitalized

  • Make sure we know what the story is about in the title; avoid vague terms and jargon

  • For grants and awards, the title should always include:

    • The full name of faculty

    • Dollar amount of award rounded to nearest thousand, e.g. $524k, or, if it’s a million+, then: 1.2M. (Then, in the full body, write out the exact amount.)

    • Name of the funding party

  • Whether it is the title or subhead, always include the department

  • Include subtitle headers throughout article for easy skimming/readability.

    • Only the first word is capitalized; leave the rest lowercase. 

Example article for titles, headers and subheaders

Shima Hajimirza Granted $519K NSF CAREER Award to Impact Energy Efficiency

The assistant professor of mechanical engineering, along with her students, aims to advance radiation heat transfer modeling, with real-life applications that include green energy and electronics.

Read more
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